By Feroz Sultani
KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday dismissed national security agency officials who he said had neglected their duty to defend the northern city of Kunduz, which Taliban militants briefly captured in September.
The Taliban's seizure of the city was a major setback for the government, and prompted Washington to prolong the 14-year-old U.S. military engagement in Afghanistan.
Government forces wrested back control of the city after days of fighting in which a U.S. air strike destroyed a hospital run by the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) aid group, killing 30 people.
"There was a lack of unified command, and even though there were many Afghan troops in Kunduz, we failed," Ghani said in a speech in Kunduz, an important trade gateway to Central Asia.
Ghani said the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the intelligence agency, had not been successful. The agency's provincial chief was among those dismissed, Ghani's office said.
"I have issued an order to dismiss all NDS personnel who neglected their duties," he said to cheers from the crowd.
He did not specify how many officials would be removed, but said some would be prosecuted under the military code and some dismissed.
Deteriorating security and a stalling economy have shaken confidence in the government, and driven about 150,000 people to leave this year to seek a better life abroad.
Afghan investigators, led by a former NDS chief, had earlier blamed leadership failings for the Taliban's capture of Kunduz.
The investigative team did not single out military or government officials for blame, but proposed reforming the National Security Council, a body headed by the president that oversees national security.
Ghani did not refer to the Oct. 3 U.S. strike that destroyed the hospital.
The result of a U.S. military investigation released this week found that the air strike was an avoidable accident caused primarily by human error.
MSF's general director said the investigation illustrated "gross negligence" by U.S. forces and reiterated a call for an independent impartial investigation.
Ghani promised financial aid to victims of the fighting, in which scores of people were killed. Tens of thousands of residents fled to neighboring provinces.
(Reporting by Feroz Sultani, Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Mike Collett-White)